Nato strike led to Gaddafi capture

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The Independent Online

Nato aircraft struck 11 vehicles in an armoured convoy speeding late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi out of his hometown of Sirte on Thursday, although Nato did not know at the time he was in the convoy, it said in a statement on Friday.

Nato's account of the air strike that led to Gaddafi's arrest and death suggested the former ruler's fleeing convoy was considerably larger, and more vehicles were hit, than previously reported.

Nato aircraft struck 11 pro-Gaddafi military vehicles that were part of a larger group of approximately 75 vehicles manoeuvring near Sirte, the Nato statement said.

"These armed vehicles were leaving Sirte at high speed and were attempting to force their way around the outskirts of the city," the statement said.

"The vehicles were carrying a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition posing a significant threat to the local civilian population. The convoy was engaged by a Nato aircraft to reduce the threat."

The statement said that initially, only one vehicle was destroyed, which disrupted the convoy and resulted in many vehicles dispersing and changing direction.

"After the disruption, a group of approximately 20 vehicles continued at great speed to proceed in a southerly direction, due west of Sirte, and continuing to pose a significant threat.

"Nato engaged these vehicles with another air asset. The post-strike assessment revealed that approximately 10 pro-Gaddafi vehicles were destroyed or damaged."

Gaddafi was captured alive after the attack but died later while in the hands of fighters in circumstances that are still unclear.

The statement said that at the time of the strike, Nato did not know that Gaddafi was in the convoy, reiterating that it was not Nato's policy to target individuals.

"We later learned from open sources and allied intelligence that Gaddafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture," the statement said.

A Libyan military official said Gaddafi was wounded in a Nato air strike before his capture. A doctor who examined his body said Gaddafi was fatally wounded by a bullet in his intestines following his capture and also had a bullet hole in his head.

The Nato statement did not give details of which Nato nations conducted the strikes. But France has said its jets halted the convoy and a Nato official has said that a US drone, an unmanned aircraft, carried out strikes on Thursday.

The United Nations human rights office called on Friday for a full investigation into the death of Gaddafi and voiced concerns that he may have been executed while in captivity.